FIRST DRIVE: 2019 GMC SIERRA 1500 DENALI

Dif­fer­ent and bet­ter

Four Wheeler - - Contents - By Sean P. Holman edi­[email protected] Pho­tos: Cour­tesy of GMC

Dif­fer­ent and bet­ter

RIGHT OFF THE BAT, THE ’19 GMC SIERRA DENALI catches your eye. No longer shar­ing any body pan­els (save for the rear doors and roof) with a cer­tain sib­ling, the Sierra’s tough yet el­e­gant ex­te­rior de­mands at­ten­tion. A unique face, asym­met­ri­cal wheel open­ings, and a ton of ex­clu­sive tech and in­no­va­tion fi­nally al­low the Sierra to stand on its own. In or­der for us to get more fa­mil­iar with GMC’S new 1⁄2-ton, we headed out to pic­turesque St. John’s in New­found­land and rolled on some miles, er, kilo­me­ters.

The Sierra fea­tures a new plat­form, known in­ter­nally as T1, to re­place the older K2 trucks. These new trucks have grown in most di­men- sions, with a mixed-ma­te­ri­als strat­egy (steel and alu­minum) in or­der to re­tain strength, while low­er­ing the curb weight up to 360 pounds over the out­go­ing trucks. The wheel­base is stretched, which has al­lowed the cabin to grow by about 3 inches, im­prov­ing the al­ready gen­er­ous ac­com­mo­da­tions, es­pe­cially in the rear seat­ing area.

From our first few mo­ments be­hind the per­fectly cen­tered steer­ing wheel, we could feel the im­pres­sive rigid­ity of the chas­sis, thanks to a high-strength steel frame. The pre­cise steer­ing, the sus­pen­sion iso­la­tion, and the won­der­fully re­spon­sive brakes with great feed­back had us fall­ing in love with the Sierra’s new chas­sis.

Avail­able with a stan­dard 5.3L V-8 with an eight-speed au­to­matic, or op­tional 6.2L backed by a stel­lar ten-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, the Denali has the brawn to match its looks. We spent our time in the 420hp 6.2L, which proved to be a pow­er­house that belted out me­chan­i­cal sounds that were noth­ing short of en­thralling. With an in­tox­i­cat­ing ex­haust note un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion, we think most driv­ers would be hard-pressed to get any­thing close to the 6.2L’s EPA rat­ing of 15 city/21 high­way. The good news is that with a light foot, we con­firmed those are re­al­is­tic num­bers in the real world, thanks to di­rect in­jec­tion, vari­able valve tim­ing, start/stop tech­nol­ogy, and a new Dy­namic Fuel Man­age­ment (DFM) sys­tem that re­places

Ac­tive Fuel Man­age­ment (AFM) on the top­tier trucks. DFM takes AFM to the next level by hav­ing the abil­ity to drop be­tween one and seven cylin­ders, de­pend­ing on load, there­fore in­creas­ing ef­fi­ciency. Un­like AFM at times, DFM is truly im­per­cep­ti­ble to the driver.

An­other Denali-spe­cific fea­ture is the Adap­tive Ride Con­trol sys­tem that en­hances ride qual­ity and body con­trol by us­ing com­put­er­con­trolled ad­justable dampers. These shocks main­tain chas­sis com­po­sure and com­fort over the harsh­est roads by re­spond­ing to road con­di­tions in mil­lisec­onds. The sys­tem can also sense when there is a load in the bed (or when a trailer is at­tached) and ad­just the firm­ness of the shocks, re­mov­ing the sen­sa­tion of a higher cen­ter of grav­ity and en­hanc­ing sway con­trol.

Speak­ing of tow­ing and haul­ing, the Sierra fea­tures a new cargo box that has been sculpted to pro­vide an im­pres­sive 62.9 cu­bic feet of vol­ume on the 5-foot, 8-inch box—giv­ing it more stuff-haul­ing space than ei­ther Ford or Ram’s 6-foot, 6-inch boxes. In­side the bed, you can ex­pect to find stronger tie-downs, en­hanced LED light­ing, 120V elec­tric out­let, and deeper cor­ner steps on the bumper that can ac­com­mo­date work boots. Stan­dard on all Sierra De­nalis is GMC’S ex­clu­sive six-po­si­tion Mul­tipro tail­gate (see side­bar) and an op­tional Car­bon­pro car­bon-fiber bed that is said to have class-lead­ing

re­sis­tance to wear, scratches, and dents.

The Denali 6.2L 4x4 Crew Cab we tested tops out at 9,300 pounds of tow­ing ca­pa­bil­ity, and thanks to a suite of Pro­grade Trai­ler­ing tech­nolo­gies, tow­ing is as easy as ever. A cam­era sys­tem of­fers hitch guid­ance, side view, Sur­round Vi­sion, and even the ca­pa­bil­ity to add an aux­il­iary ac­ces­sory cam­era that can be mounted to the back of a trailer. An elec­tric park­ing brake as­sist au­to­mat­i­cally en­gages when shift­ing into Park, pre­vent­ing the truck from mov­ing out of po­si­tion when hitch­ing up.

GMC goes a step fur­ther with a new trai­ler­ing app that is de­signed to be use­ful for driv­ers of all skill lev­els. The sys­tem can de­tect up to 10 trail­ers and as­sign spe­cific pro­files that can keep track of mul­ti­ple pa­ram­e­ters, such as mileage, tire pres­sure, and main­te­nance in­ter­vals. There is a step-by-step trai­ler­ing check­list that can be ac­cessed in the driver in­for­ma­tion cen­ter, as well as the abil­ity to per­form a trailer light check se­quence. An­other nice fea­ture is trailer theft de­tec­tion that will flash the lights and honk the horn if the trailer is dis­con­nected while the Denali is parked and locked. The Sierra even has a pro­vi­sion for mon­i­tor­ing trailer tire pres­sure when the trailer is prop­erly equipped.

A new ve­hi­cle-spe­cific in­for­ma­tion la­bel on the door now calls out curb weight, GVWR, GCWR, max­i­mum pay­load, max­i­mum tongue weight, and rear GAWR, help­ing to make sure ve­hi­cles aren’t loaded beyond their max.

Get­ting in­side the ex­tremely quiet and spa­cious new cabin is easy with larger open­ings and pas­sive en­try (fi­nally). The Denali in­te­rior is up­graded over the stan­dard Sierra, with the ad­di­tion of real alu­minum and open-pore Ash trim, as well as the ex­panded use of gen­uine leather. Stor­age ar­eas are abun­dant in the new truck, and even in­clude hid­den stor­age cub­bies in the rear seat­backs. While the in­te­rior is func­tional and the con­trols are nicely laid out, we ex­pect a lit­tle bit more char­ac­ter from a top-of-the-line lux­ury truck, es­pe­cially when con­sid­er­ing just how far the com­pe­ti­tion has come. That be­ing said, the Sierra still has a few class-ex­clu­sive tricks up its sleeve, such as the slick 3x7-inch mul­ti­color Head Up Dis­play and a cam­era-based rearview mir­ror sys­tem. By us­ing a re­mote-mounted cam­era and a screen in place of the tra­di­tional rearview mir­ror, the Sierra al­lows you to see be­hind the truck, re­gard­less of any pas­sen­ger heads or loads block­ing the view out the back. Also, we would be re­miss if we didn’t men­tion the 8-inch head unit with a new user-friendly in­ter­face and im­proved Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto sta­bil­ity, or the fact that push-but­ton start has fi­nally made it to the Sierra.

Over­all, we are in­cred­i­bly im­pressed with all the work that has gone into the ’19 Sierra, and specif­i­cally the Denali model. For those who are in­ter­ested in less lux­ury and more off-road ca­pa­bil­ity, the AT4 off-road model is avail­able and mir­rors the Chevy Sil­ver­ado Trail Boss that we re­viewed in the Jan­uary 2019 is­sue of Four Wheeler. Thanks to ex­clu­sive in­no­va­tion, class-lead­ing tech­nol­ogy, and styling that goes beyond the typ­i­cal grille-and­badge change, GMC fi­nally has a truck that is no longer stuck in the shadow of its Bow Tie–wear­ing sib­ling and can stand on its own in a crowded pickup mar­ket.

The GMC Denali has its own unique styling that man­ages to look ag­gres­sive and so­phis­ti­cated at the same time.

The Denali in­te­rior adds real alu­minum and open­pore Ash trim, as well as ex­panded use of leather.

The crew cab of the ’19 GMC Sierra has an ad­di­tional 3 inches of legroom.

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